A few years back I was pretty close with the people over at the Rational Response Squad. They made a little noise, became small celebrities in the early atheist community, and probably helped that community grow in ways that other less-quiet ways could not have helped.
There were revered by some, reviled by many more, and a couple of years ago or so they sort of fell off the map in the atheist community. I know more about all of that than I really need to know, and I do not care to relate the soap-opera involved.
But in any case they never really disappeared completely. I have been in contact with some of the members of the RRS over the last few years and have watched them change and move in different directions. One of those old friends is now blogging about history, and I have continued to read his blog consistently because he is a dedicated and intelligent person with interesting things to say.
Then yesterday I read this:
For those who I left behind in my journey, I have no words of comfort for you. I suspect that you are either filled with disgust, with acceptance, or are just noncommittal. Maybe you’re working up a response. Of course I welcome any discussion. But it might be important now to note that I have not even yet ventured at an answer to the question ‘does god exist?’ I have refused to answer. I do not wish to indulge your egotism, your wish to label me, to place me in some convoluted category. To hell with that. If you want to judge me, do so on my positions in other more serious matters. Do not trouble me with your bothersome rantings about the pointlessness or the value in the exultation of faith.
He says more than just that, of course (read the whole post, for full context). But this was the paragraph that stuck out to me while I was trying to sleep last night (I was not home, so I could not get up and blog about it then). I kept trying to figure out what this was all about.
I responded in the comments (
currently under moderation) [comment has been accepted], and I would like to have some discussion with Tom about this larger issue, because I think that the atheist community has become so much more than the question about the existence of god itself. Yes, we certainly still deal with that question, but we deal with so much more. Readers of my blog should know that, in any case.
We deal with questions of skepticism, science and faith, religion and culture, morality, and so many other things which are not only relevant but also important to deal with. The atheist community, as well as the larger skeptical and reason-based community, are going to be very important in the formation of our culture over the next 20 years (and beyond, probably).
We are no longer a movement surrounding the (possibly unanswerable) question of “does god exist?” As Matt Dillahunty says, we want to know what you believe and why. This goes for questions having to do with gods, science, relationships, and everything else. I personally love it.